(The reviews of the dishes make this post very long. The first two paragraphs of this post explain the question. You don't need to read on if you don't want to)
Yusho opened to such great anticipation and praise by the food community in Vegas. It regularly gets great reviews from critics. It's heralded as the most exciting culinary development Vegas has received in years. But my group and I hated our meal there. Whenever I read another glowing review, it makes me wonder whether it's my palate that just doesn't get it. I feel I am pretty well-eaten, having done marathon food adventures in many major cities, but I just didn't like Yusho. My friends are equally well-eaten and they came out actually angry at the place.
Design and decor aside, the food itself was just nothing impressive. To make matters worse, the cost to food ratio was HORRENDOUSLY off. It felt like each dish that arrived made us sad just looking at it. And then we got even more sad as each taste was just not good. There was nothing new or exciting or interesting about the food. In the end, we paid $48 each to sample a few dishes and we left hungry. I don't see how Yusho will survive, especially at Monte Carlo. I've walked by it many times and it is usually pretty empty. I dined around 6pm on a Friday and we were one of only two tables.
This sentiment is also expressed by some on Yelp, but they are less prevalent than the glowing reviews. Is it just that the kitchen has really solid days mixed with some very very bad days?
Summary of my meal: Almost everything we got was not hot enough, lacking seasoning, lacking acidity or some other component for balance, and cost at least 2x too much.
Here's what we ordered:
House pickles ($9)
Decent, but perhaps pickled too long, since there really was no taste besides the acidity. Serving size about the size of one of the banchan side dishes you get at a Korean tofu house.
Quite bland. Octopus lacked char and the entire dish lacked acidity. It was a strange dish that really didn't hit any flavor notes at all. Just bland. And what little octopus was in the dish was cut into very small pieces. Again, portion like a Korean tofu house banchan dish.
Chicken Drummies ($9)
This was one of the worst of the night. It sounded amazing on the menu (red miso, garlic, sesame), but the result was none of those flavors. It had a sweetness to it, but that's it. The chicken did not have a nice fried crust, nor was it really heated through. The skin was that unpalatable soft undercooked texture. Worst of all, the meat itself had absolutely zero flavor. It was essentially unseasoned chicken, slightly undercooked, hidden under a sweet sauce. It had none of the qualities you'd want in a chicken drumette. Serving size was three or four drumettes.
Duck Breast ($12)
Again, a very disappointing dish. $12 for a single skewer containing four thin slices of duck, each wrapped around a small piece of enoki mushroom. Execution was lacking with this one. The duck had no seasoning at all. It was cooked rare to the point of being chewy, yet had none of the gaminess you'd associate with duck. The mushroom wrapped inside was okay. My big problem with this dish was that it did not seem to have ever been put on the grill. No sear, no char, no signs of any treatment besides putting the duck-wrapped enoki on a skewer. It was a dish screaming for salt and a few minutes over charcoal. And the portion size was off. Have you ever been to a bad Mongolian BBQ place where they put bacon-wrapped Lil' Smokies in a row on skewers? That's the portion size.
Crispy Cod Steam Bun ($8)
So with no portion size listed on the menu, we assumed you'd receive two baos per order. We had four people. We ordered two different baos expecting two of each. Nope, it was a single bao (and a very small one at that!). The crispy cod version was better than the pork shoulder. It was an okay dish. Not much to say other than it was average, with no standout qualities except the price.
Pork Shoulder Steam Bun ($9)
Again, a single bun. And this one was not good. The pork shoulder was dry and flavorness. It needed salt and acidity. What I got was just a muddled one-note flavor. If BaoHaus NYC can do exciting bao for $3-$4 each and the famous Ippudo gives you two for $9, why did I just pay $9 for a single bao that was completely non-memorable?
Japanese Griddle Cake ($17)
Finally, we had a good dish. It was an upscale version of Okonomiyaki. It tasted like okonomiyaki, which is good. They did not mess around too much with it. This dish finally showed that the chef knows how to salt and can make something with a complex flavor. This was the first time anyone at the table described it as "pretty good" instead of, "eh, not really special at all". It was also the only dish to come out at a good serving temperature. It felt like it was cooked for us and brought straight from the kitchen.
Grilled Yellowtail Collar ($40)
This was one of the specials and we ordered it without knowing the cost. It was also the biggest disappointment of the day. The collar was horrible. It didn't seem like it came straight off the grill. Parts were lukewarm, the entire collar was lacking seasoning, and it had a fishiness combined with an iron-ness that was just unpleasant. Parts of the edges were a bit too charred, leaving a burnt fishiness. A decent sized collar, but a ridiculous price. It came with nori to make yellowtail collar nori tacos, but the nori combined with the burnt fishiness was not very good.
Logan Poser Ramen ($21)
And we end with what was the most disappointing dish. All the reviews raved about it, so we had to get it. When the waiter plopped this miso soup bowl-sized portion of soup onto the table, we were confused. Did we order that? All we had left was the ramen. Oh, that WAS the ramen. $21 for a miso soup bowl-sized serving with very little soup and even less actual noodles. Suspended on the bowl lip was the 2X Fried Chicken. The chicken was flavorless and very overfried. It was room temperature and it was greasy. The broth itself was strange. There was a sourness there that I couldn't place. As I got near the bottom, I finally realized it was mustard seeds. Mustard seed in ramen? The other dishes I ordered could have used the acidity, but this ramen did not need it. The broth also lacked complexity and depth of flavor, resulting in just a strongly flavored soup that felt heavy and muddled. The noodles themselves were not special either.
We also ordered a single drink. After tax and tip, we were in for $48 each. And we didn't have enough food. And it's not like I just like Flintstone-sized steaks. I love e by Jose Andres, I love Sushi Nakazawa in NY, etc.
My friends and I eat out decently often and enjoy trying new places. We recently had sushi at Jayde Fuzion which we hated, and one of us commented, "You know how bad that was? It was worse than Yusho.". So we now use Yusho as our benchmark for a bad meal.
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